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The Potager Garden

Reading Time 3 minutes
Date 23 May 2024
This year, our Garden & Conservation team have planted beds in our Edible Garden to highlight the benefits of companion planting. Here, Garden & Conservation Apprentice Beth shares details of The Potager Garden bed.

This bed is an example of a potager, a small-scale kitchen garden, which demonstrates how an edible plot can be productive, diverse and beautiful. The main principle used is companion planting - an organic method which maintains a natural balance within the garden by utilising mutually beneficial plants. This boosts plant productivity, aids pollination and reduces the risk of pests and disease. This method ultimately benefits the gardener as it means less work with a higher crop yield, whilst also benefitting nature and aiding conservation.

Understanding plants and the interactions between them, can boost the productivity of a plot, increasing crop yield and quality. This means a potager garden can feed a whole household with even a small plot, and in a community garden setting, a larger harvest is available to a larger number of participants.

The design of this plot demonstrates a range of effective kitchen garden combinations, as well as how to utilise the space for maximum crop variety and yield. It can be viewed as a whole, or as three sections, each with a slightly different design theme depending on preference, space, and needs. The plot was planted with the intention of covering as much of the surface as possible. This has the double benefit of reducing the occurrence of weeds, which are prevalent in exposed soil, as well as helping to retain moisture, reducing the need for watering.

The first third of the bed (closest to the grass), is an edible meadow featuring plants which provide natural pest control and attract pollinating insects. It includes Calendula officinalis ‘Indian Prince’ and ‘Art Shades’, Viola ‘Johnny Jump Up’, French Marigold ‘Carmen’ and Cornflower ‘Black Ball’ and ‘Double Mixed’, which are all edible flowers – great for adding to salads! Amongst this range of edible flowers are Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Purity’, ‘Dazzler’, ‘Candyfloss White’ and ‘Seashells Mixed’. Although these are not edible, they attract pollinators and add height to the plot. Planted along the front of this section are Beetroot ‘Boltardy’ and Kale ‘Nero di Toscana’ – these are great companions as they do not compete for nutrients or root space. Beetroot grows below ground and the kale above. The marigolds in this section also act as companion plants for the kale, as well as many other vegetables, enhancing their growth.

The middle section is an example of how the Three Sisters method (demonstrated in neighbouring beds) can be adapted to a smaller space, with lettuce, mixed salad leaves, rocket, turnip and radishes acting as edible ground cover, Sunflowers ‘Red Sun’ and ‘Giant Single’ providing height and French Climbing Beans ‘Cobra’ and ‘Violet’ used as climbers. Mixed Sweet Peas have also been added, although not edible, to attract pollinators and add scent and colour.

The third section (closest to the chipped path) is a miniature herb garden, featuring Parsley ‘Giant of Italy’, Oregano and Mint. Herbs can be used in companion planting to enhance the flavour of certain fruits and vegetables – such as planting basil with tomatoes to improve the flavour of the tomatoes, planting dill with cucumber to enhance the flavour, or planting borage with strawberries to sweeten the fruit.

This section harnesses the companion benefits of Nasturtiums , with kale planted amongst them. There are 6 different varieties of Nasturtium in this bed, all of which are powerful companion plants. They deter pests and boost the growth of other plants, and are also edible themselves – their flowers have a lovely spicy or peppery taste and can be used as a garnish or in salads. The nasturtiums have been planted to spread down the sides of the middle section to allow their companion power to spread throughout the bed, as well as to soften the edges with the path. Cosmos have also been dotted amongst the herbs, to attract pollinators and add colour and height to this section.

By understanding how plants interact with one another in this way and the benefits they can bring, a better quality and quantity of plants and crops can be grown no matter the space available. Additionally, this style of planting can provide benefits for nature and reducing the workload of the gardener!

Also see more postings at in the Blog.

Calendula Officinalis (common Marigold) And Nepeta Cataria,( Catmint), In Hg